Mike Daisey and the This American Life Retraction


Daisey gives the same defense Rush Limbaugh gave. Daisey said he's not a journalist, but an artist. Rush claims he's not a journalist, but an entertainer. Like that excuses everything.
It's a performance, not journalism. You can bend the truth or outright lie in a performance. It was effective, too: Daisey's piece is riveting and, even if only inspired by things he heard about and not things he actually experienced, it remains powerful and compelling and thought provoking. It also accomplished something: bringing attention to the important issue of abuses in China's factories.
@3 - So the ends justify the means? Daisey literally and directly represented what he was doing as the truth. THESE THINGS HAPPENED. He said that. Literally. To people who were asking him to be VERY SURE that was true, because they were putting their own reputations behind it. He lied to them. Lying in his play is one thing (I would argue in this case also inexcusable), but what he's done here goes far beyond that, and it's indefensible. It has nothing to do with what you think of what happened after. The abuses he tells of were not real. Are there abuses? Of course. Is it a simple story? Not at all.
@3 - Also, read this: http://grist.org/media/mr-daisey-and-the…

And, have you listened to the Retraction show? I hope so. If you're going to defend Daisey on this, please make sure you've heard his own attempt at a defense.
I listened to the original Mike Daisey broadcast on TAL in January, and eagerly listened to the dissection/retraction this morning.

Daisey is an idiot. I can accept a certain degree of exaggeration in a performance, provided he's not implying that it is 100% true to begin with. But to straight-up lie in a journalistic context, which is what he did to TAL, is bullshit. It destroys the credibility of his story, and also gives a black eye to the credibility of TAL.

Which is too bad. Because now that his credibility has been destroyed, lots of people will assume that his entire story was bullshit, and that there is nothing wrong with factories or working conditions in China.
Wasn't this play one of the Stranger's "If you do one thing today" bits?
My big problem with Mike Daisey right now, is for months, he railed against Tech writers, basically called them hacks, was critical of New York Times reporting of Apple. He went on TV to espouse his views about Apple and China. He never said well, I kind of make crap up or take literary license. Noooooooo, he soaked up the attention like a sponge, by going on TV, and acting like a pundit..

He was pretty unforgiving for anyone who questioned his theme about Apple. (like his attack on David Pogue) Apple Computer problems with its Chinese Contractors are pretty well known. However embellishing them to make the protagonist looked better, as Mike Daisey did, was just plain wrong, besides it takes the focus on what is important: to improve the working conditions for chinese workers at the Computer contractors factories, which not only make Apple Computers’ parts but many other American and other Multi national’s electronic parts..

Mr. Daisey, blew it. He lied, he acted like an ass.
Those several seconds of dead air as Daisey apparently fumbles for an answer are riveting, and kudos to This American Life for leaving them in. But here's the problem with this kind of lying/theatricalizing/manipulating in the first place: it sets up suspicion of everything that follows. So even as I listened to Daisey apparently being honest (yes, that's the second time I've used the word 'apparently' -- and now the third), I found myself suspecting that the dead air, the tension, the pathos were just a tad too dramatic. That is, I wondered if Daisey hadn't already begun to do what the Grist article ends up urging him to do -- to tell it as a story, that is, but again, not as honestly as he might have us believe...
He should just say he was exhausted, dehydrated, or malnourished. That seems to make everything ok...
I completely agree, Anthony. I listened to both shows on TAL. Daisey's excuses for his mendacity were pure & utter bullshit. Ira redeemed himself & the show by broadcasting this retraction.

The reason people cared so much about his story is that they thought it was a true story. It loses almost all of its impact when you learn about his lies.
I think “This American Life” had no other choice but to issue a retraction, and at least put up a pretty good objective piece about electronic component makers and assemblers in China.

As much as Mike Daisey lied and evaded the fact checking before the story was aired in January. “This American Life” blew it, by not getting in touch with Cathy Lee/Li Guifen.

So the Apple slaves weren't poisoned at that factory, but at another one? Oooooh, all is forgiven for the mega-corporation, but time to crucify the artist for blending together several true things but making it look like on true thing. Clearly there's no problem with labor conditions in China, so let's not get distracted by them. Our real goal is to make sure every word of every piece of art is true.

I also hear there really was no such boy named "Huck Finn." Anyone want to join me in trashing the bones of one Samuel Clemmens?
I love the "pretty good objective piece". Yeah, at least half of the workers in half of the plants work over SIXTY HOURS PER WEEK. Some workers are forced to do two 12-hour shifts back to back.

But, the host explains, the work expectation in China is different, so this is okay.
2011: Greg Mortenson and 3 cups of bullshit
2012: This mess

I hope we can learn from this...
@15 Doesn't change the fact he lied.
I like how Cathy Lee basically doesn't think it's a big deal because Daisey is a "writer" and not a "journalist". Reminds me of the talk around that book The Lifespan of a Fact.

I'm still listening to the episode but I would have liked them to have asked Cathy Lee what she thinks of Foxconn.
@15, maybe you don't get out much, but lots of cultures have different views about how much work is "too much".

We here in the US consider 40 hours a week to be full time employment, but that isn't true everywhere, and it isn't enforced. When I was younger, I worked 60 hour weeks at Boeing, on mandatory overtime, during their boom years. I've worked at a job in Seattle that had 12 hour shifts (albeit not back-to-back). Many small business owners work far more hours than that.

In much of Europe, a standard work week is 35 hours, with far more paid vacation than we get here. So by European standards, most Americans are way overworked.

In Chinese factories, a 6-day work week is common. Different countries have different customs, and we can't necessarily judge other countries by our standards (such as they are).
Meanwhile in the Show Me State, police are called to a caucus site in St Charles County (3rd largest of the state) when fights almost break out between Santorum, Paul and Romney supporters. A fricken police HELICOPTER was called and the caucus was cancelled.

"Two off-duty St. Peters police officers, who had been hired for the event by Republicans, called in for support from five law enforcement agencies, including the Missouri State Highway Patrol. A police helicopter arrived at the scene. Dokes made a motion to adjourn the caucus, and two people were arrested for trespassing after they refused to leave, police said.

"Today's events in St. Charles were unfortunate, and the meeting was adjourned to protect the safety of all participants," said state Republican Party Chairman David Cole.""


It's not the first caucus screw up either.

The swing states of Maine, Iowa and Nevada all had messed up caucuses as well. Plus, it's never good to piss off your activist base. Especially in swing states.


Republicans can't even run their small caucuses properly. How could they run this country?
Whoops wrong post.

Too much Guinness?

I love your work, and hate to see you in this position. But. Your other works have been presented and accepted as acts of theatre. You framed this work as a documentary. It was taken as a documentary. You let it be put on TAL as documentary evidence. To come out now and say, "Well, I'm an actor, not a reporter!" doesn't cut it. I appreciate that you regret that it was put on the radio and therefore put into the realm of journalism, but, really Mike, that's how you wrote and presented the work. It wasn't stories and unknown background about Nicola Tesla. It was stories about where I went and what I saw! Radio broadcast or not, when you write it that way you are positioning yourself as a documentarian, not an actor. You don't get to hide behind your artistic shield when it's revealed you lied to increase awareness when you portray yourself this way.

I understand and support your motives, but we can't change things by shouting heresay. If we're going to go about righting wrongs, we need to go about it the right way.

Love your work, Mike, but you blew it this time!

Brendan Kiley called Mr Daisy on his exagerations in 2011
I agree with Cathie the interpreter "It's not like he was a journalist, he's a storyteller".
@16, exactly. And they gave the same excuses; everyone gives the same excuses.
I hope Apple sues his fat, lying, activist, 'progressive' ass.

Daisey is toast. Expect to see him in a freak show at the Puyallup Fair by the fall.
Great. A fat guy lied so I can pretend that Foxconn isn't the worst kind of soul crushing factory for products that validate my hipster existence. Sent from smartphone. :)
what the fuck have any of you sanctimonious fucks ever done?

if there's one thing we know how to do in this society, it's how to kick the hell out of a guy when he's down. fuck you, you bandwagon motherfuckers.

i smell blood...GET 'IM!!!

yeah. the guy lied. he fucked up big. he was trying to do the right thing, and along the way his vanity or his ego or whatever else got in the way and he made mistakes that he's going to have to live with for the rest of his life. your stupid, obvious commentary is superfluous to that fact, though i'm sure it makes you feel superior for a little while. hooray for special you.

the difference between him and you preening, self-righteous fucks is that this motherfucker actually did something. he made inexcusable mistakes, yes, but he's also changed the world for the better in the process. there are people on the other side of the planet whose lives will improve because of the attention that he brought to the subject, and because of the conversation that he started by the force of his will and the power of a very good story that, yes, he misrepresented as being entirely factual. but his lies and his downfall don't erase the good he's done - no one is disputing the general truth of his story, and this conversation that wasn't happening before will continue - so i ask again: what the fuck have you done, you whimpering jackals? fuck you and your bullshit mortification.
Uh, @28, unless you are personally Mike Daisey, your hysterical shrieking defense of him here seems kind of... completely insane. Nobody is kicking him while he's down in any literal sense... nobody is pinning Mike Daisey down and making him read every internet comment made about this story. And frankly, your idea that we should just trust this guy's conscience to castigate him for his bad behavior and mind our own business falls down at the idea that his conscience bothers him at all about this. The TAL recording shows a guy who is just intensely uncomfortable that he got caught and refuses to take responsibility for his actions.

But ultimately, it's not about him or hurting him at all! People don't comment on news stories about public figures in order to "get" the public figure in question. They just want to discuss the news among themselves. Your opinion is perfectly valid and okay to share, even if you don't agree with the mostly negative tone here, but your own hysterical, defensive and weirdly grand-standing tone--"so I ask again"? seriously? are you running for mayor of the comments?--makes you seem kind of, uh, nuts.

And yes, actually Daisey's hubris and mendacity does erase a lot of the good he did; a huge swathe of people will just hear that the story was retracted and go back to normal, ie, not ever thinking about it. Raising the issue and then immediately being discredited may do more harm to the cause of reform than never raising it at all; it certainly makes things harder for anyone trying to PROPERLY examine the working conditions over there.

Yes, Daisey "did something." He exploited real people with real problems in order to push his own fame, he lied to people who asked him point-blank if he was lying to them, he went on a news program and presented this as news. The idea that he was "trying to do the right thing" and he got sidetracked is pretty suspect; it seems a lot more likely to me that he was trying to get attention for himself by using other people's true stories, and if he had to hammer those stories into lies to facilitate reflecting more fame back on Mike Daisey, he had no problem with it, because they should be glad their story is being told at all!
@ 28, he hasn't changed shit. If anything, he cried wolf, and damaged the credibility of whistle blowers everywhere.
The White Man's Burden redux.
How long til TMZ gets a video of Daisey running down broadway, butt naked, slapping his monkey?
Well at least James Frey has someone to hang out with that is on the same artistic level.

Also, just a couple quick questions for you legal Sloggers:
Now that he's been proven to have lied about specific facts can Apple and/or the Steve Jobs estate sue him (I say the SJ estate also because it's the "Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" not "...of Apple")? Would he be liable for one account of this story or for each and every time he told it story on record without stating he used artistic license?

Just curious about his legal ramifications of this lie he took around the country and told for $60 a seat.
Gotta love Sloggers horror that people are willing (yes, they line up outside Foxconn for a chance to work there) to work 60 hr weeks. I did that for over a decade when I started out my career. I know many professionals who do that. But to Seattle's leisure class of wannabe artists and coffee shop activists? The horror!!!

Fuck me your white privilege is showing. If you think life as a Chinese peasant was so hunky-dory 20 yrs ago, go give it a try. You too will be at Foxconn's gates begging for a job after just a week.
This is just Apple destroying Daisey. He is very inconvenient and the "lies", or in this case, amalgamations, are just a way for Apple to control it's image. There is a lot of money at stake here, people.
"This is just Apple destroying Daisey"

@35 Actually it was an NPR reporter, Mike Schmitz from Beijing, who exposed Daisey's lies. But go ahead, start a new lie to coverup the earlier ones.
Only Seattle's entitlement class would be totally unaware that 6 day work weeks are pretty much standard across Asia.
The several moments of dead air when Ira Glass questions him are worth the whole hour of listening.
I work 60 or 70 hours a week, and I'm right here. Sheesh. Leisure is only for SAHMs and trustafarian boho types.
Thousands line up for Foxconn jobs in Zhengzhou

The Chinese city of Zhengzhou was flooded with thousands of applicants on Monday who gathered outside a labor agency to apply for iPhone plant jobs as electronics giant Foxconn begins to ramp up its huge hiring efforts. The crowd continued to grow throughout the day despite recent controversy over a New York Times report highlighting difficult working conditions at Foxxconn.

Lines dominated by mostly male workers stretched more than 200 meters along the road, as Foxconn expects to recruit an additional 100,000 employees to work at their Science Park plant in Zhengzhou. The workforce expansion is aimed at doubling daily production of iPhones to 400,000 per day — up from the current 200,000 mark.

The $1.1 billion expansion — expected to bring $20 billion in sales revenue in 2012, would position the factory as the largest smartphone production facility in the world.


Stupid Chinese, don't they understand the joys of entitlement?
Yeah, this is all Daisey's fault. I guess that cockbreath Ira Glass has no responsibility for using a theater act as source material.
@35 - Ridiculous. Have you listened to any of this? Daisey admits it.

@41 - Ira Glass and TAL are very clear that it was ultimately their responsibility and their mistake to air the piece. Then they produced an entire hour-long episode unpacking what happened. They're pros and they did the right thing.
@40 I guess Chinese who are willing to work hard and sacrifice for their families don't read the NYT or hang out enjoying the contemporary Seattle/NYC theatre scene or else they wouldn't be lining up at Foxconn looking for work but sitting in cafes pontificating about Chinese development.
Btw the suicide rate at Foxconn, with 800,000 employees was 10 last year. The national rate in China? 14 suicides per 100,000.

Do the math morons.
@41, nothing wrong with having "cockbreath," so that particular bigotted slur is not appreciated. Also, Ira is straight, so it's an inaccurate slur.

Did you listen to the show? He takes full responsibility for it. I thought he was sooo nice to Daisey and so gentle with him it was crazy.

-from one of the whimpering jackals.
If you really care about working conditions in China, you should be fucking furious with Daisey. He's made it real easy to ignore any legitimate claims about working conditions there for a good long while.
A *full episode* of TAL dissecting in excruciating detail about where, precisely, in the story Daisey used his literary license to achieve the intended audience effect of getting people to, ya know, like, *care* about the consequences of our overconsumption habits?? I have no doubt that David Sedaris' Santa Elf story doesn't check out either. I'm sure he used some literary license there too. Let's interview some of those elves. I bet they don't remember certain conversations either. Why isn't *that* story being followed up by Ira? Gee, maybe it's because lots of money is on the line at Apple & profit margins are being affected. We can't have our greedy consumers buying *less* can we? What about the stockholders??

If you are dumb enough to believe that Apple isn't behind this dramatic, overdone, and drawn-out confession of Mike Daisey, then I have a real nice jalopy I'd like to sell you.

I used to respect Ira Glass. No longer. Now I can see he's willing to be bought and sold by a rich, powerful corporation. Fuck you, TAL. Your program has lost *my* respect and trust due to this reason alone.
@47 - Sedaris' stories don't address very serious human rights situations, currently in the news. The two are not the same. When Daisey started dealing with this issue, the standard changed. When there are real, serious consequences, the truth matters a hell of a lot more than when you're telling funny yarns about working as a Macy's elf (or about your fascination with Nicola Tesla).

The idea that Apple is behind this is serious tin-foil hat shit. Give me a break. Provide a single, solitary shred of evidence (or even a remotely credible scenario) that this is true or knock it off.
The facts speak for themselves. It's really sad that his more crazy side didn't shine though, but to suggest that his entire story is false is wrong. People have been used as slave labor for years, children have been used as slave labor for years and there's no amount of lying a single person can do to make me believe these children don't need our help.
@47 You need to listen to the story again (or read the transcript)
Ira on what happened:
Although he's not a journalist, we made clear to him that anything he was going to say on our show would have to live up to journalistic standards. He had to be truthful. And he lied to us.

So he DID lie to them to sell his story. He allowed everyone to remain under the assumption that his story was 100% factual because he stands up and says "Here's what happened to me" with no aside in the program. He has gone on countless programs as a talking head as an expert in China labor when it turns out, he made the most appalling parts of his stories up.

And before you pause your Wii on your Sony TV to reply with some snide comment on your Samsung tablet, please let me list of the companies that use Foxconn:

Acer Inc., Amazon.com, Apple Inc., ASRock, Asus, Barnes & Noble, Cisco, Dell, EVGA Corporation, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, IBM, Lenovo, Logitech, Microsoft, MSI, Motorola, Netgear, Nintendo, Nokia, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba, Vizio

Stop blaming one tech company for an industry wide epidemic. If we were SO FUCKING concerned about the working conditions in China we wouldn't have "Intel Inside" on every working computer since 1995 (AHEM, I'm looking your way Microsoft). Anything with a microchip, probably has precious metals in it that are rare. Every cell phone, computer, tablet, some of the gangster printers out there, all have them.

I'm sorry, but anyone who wants to paint this as an Apple smear campaign just wants to bash the company, which is fine, but just say that's what you want to do.

*Another side note: most of the negative FACTUAL information about Foxconn actual journalists use come directly from Apple's own investigations. Could they be doing more? Of course. Should we expect China to adapt their labor laws to our own? Of course not (SEE: @19).
I admit that I was sucked into the vortex of This American Life for close to a decade, and found the who thing just so smartly constructed and executed that I even gave money to support the endeavor so I could continue to listen with that smug and self-congratulatory smile that all of us NPR listeners demonstrate when we're not furrowing our brows in the absolute sincerest expressions of concern at the state of our world. And even when satires like The Onion's article on This American Life skewered its pretentions (and pretentiousness) I chuckled knowingly and allowed myself to smile even more smugly, having demonstrated that most hipster of ideals, the ability to both enjoy something and to ironically appreciate criticism of that very thing.

No longer. After suffering through this most recent hour of self-indulgent and passive aggressive angst, I just can't take it anymore. The entire episode is insufferable, from Glass's mock outrage at being lied to (LIED TO!) to his absurd attempt to take full responsibility while simultaneously shaming Daisey into accepting the blame, to his ridiculous hand-wringing over whether or not he should feel bad about the harsh working conditions in China, as if helping people figure out what they should or should not feel bad about is even a valid goal for a news show. But the truth is that helping people figure out what they should feel bad about is EXACTLY what This American Life exists for. I don't know how I missed it all this time, but it really is like a Sunday sermon for over-educated liberals. "Here's an injustice, or tragic aspect of the human condition that you haven't been caring enough about lately, now repent for your insensitivity, and keep your eye out for the collection basket!" At last, the curtain has been pulled back and the sanctimony that undergirds every episode of this impeccably curated but remarkably one-note program is simply too much for me to bear.

There are some very good episodes. But I really think that if I never hear those adenoidal strains of self-righteousness again, mine will be a blessed life.
@51 Okay. Which episodes do you think are good? What makes them good?

Also I'm not sure I understand what you mean when you say that the show tries to make liberals feel guilty. It's one thing to say that the show doesn't go far enough in providing pointers as to where they can do something about whatever upsetting current even they heard about - failing to do so *could* encourage a solipsistic meditation on one's own emotional pain, I agree.

I don't have much sympathy for that view, though. You are also a grownup who can probably think of a solution yourself without hand-holding. Or you are probably streaming the show through the internet - why not brainstorm with people there? Saying the show's goal is to cause guilt is like saying your doctor is just trying to make you feel bad when she tells you to lose a couple pounds but doesn't go so far as to craft an exercise plan for you.
What he created is the introduction to a conversation, not the conversation itself. His downfall, I think, is that he misframed his work. His work is powerful and engaging as a way of bringing people to the table for discussion as a piece of theater, if only he'd be honest about its context. Alas.
@51: My, vavavid! So in love with your own cleverness. Registering just so you can post exactly the same pearls of wisdom in two different threads! Breathtaking! So now you plan to feel smug for not feeling smug for listening to Public Radio? Glorious! You are an example to us all, even if your writing is just, shall we say, a touch on the florid side.
Rock on with your bad self, vavavid, rock on.